Apr 15, 2014
As Lent nears its end and we anticipate the Lord’s Passion and the glory of Easter, our focus is, above all, on Christ, the Lord, whose death on the cross brought salvation to mankind and whose resurrection brought hope to all. As we hear the gospels, we tend to see ourselves as outsiders to the story or as those culpable for Christ’s suffering due to our sinfulness.
However, this is the time to relate to Christ. In order to fully appreciate the magnitude of the Easter story, we need to fully appreciate Jesus as fully human, as one of us, as well as the human dimension of his suffering. Only then can we grasp God’s love as manifest in his son and in the final glory of His incarnation as a gift of grace to us, his children.
The gospels of Holy Week present Christ as experiencing a wide range of human emotion as he reacts to the challenges before him. After more than three years of Christ’s preaching and healing, nothing had fundamentally changed. The earlier crowds of enthusiastic followers had come and gone and only a small core group of followers remained. In the gospels leading up to Easter we recognize in Jesus’ actions and emotions a humanity we share and a path we may follow.
The gospels of Holy Week allow us to appreciate Christ’s human nature and ponder our own more deeply. Contemplating his diverse emotions, ranging from fear and anxiety, hope, sadness and disappointment to a sense of loneliness and abandonment makes us conscious of a special fellowship with Christ. Jesus is forced to move around in Galilee to avoid stoning and arrest due to growing hostility. Furthermore, he is tested when an adulterous woman is brought before him. As he enters Jerusalem in triumph, the enthusiasm with which he is greeted by the crowds gives reason for hope and optimism that his ministry might continue. However, the enthusiasm wavers quickly and tensions rise and loyalty diminishes even among his closest followers. In the temple, Jesus is gripped by anger and drives out money lenders and traders. Yet during the following days, deep sadness due to imminent betrayal fills his heart. Jesus’ disappointment and a sense of loneliness in the garden of Gethsemane become apparent as he finds his disciples asleep instead of keeping watch. He anticipates Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. As he prays on the Mount of Olives, his anguish overwhelms him and he is tortured by doubt and fear. His cry of abandonment on the cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – is real to us, because it echoes human despair in its darkest moments. These are truly human emotions, responding to human weakness and vice, suffering ahead, and a darkness that can engulf us all. Christ’s challenges are also our challenges.